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How Long Does It Take To Recover From a Meniscus Injury?
How Long Does It Take To Recover From a Meniscus Injury?

Dealing with a meniscus injury can be challenging. When left untreated, your condition can affect your mobility and overall quality of life as you find it difficult to perform everyday tasks like walking or climbing stairs. Whether you’re an athlete or enjoy an active lifestyle, injuries like a meniscus tear can significantly limit your daily routine.

It’s essential to understand the causes of a meniscus injury, your treatment options, and the outlook of a torn meniscus to better understand your recovery process. Although everyone has a different recovery journey, here’s a general guide to what you can expect in the following weeks.

What Is a Meniscus?

A meniscus is a C-shaped cartilage found in the knee between the thigh bone (femur) and shinbone (tibia). There are two menisci on the inner and outer sides of the knee. These primarily act as shock absorbers, cushioning the knee joint and minimizing the stress and weight on the knee.

Menisci also lubricates the knee joint, allowing the thigh bone and shinbone to move smoothly and avoid pain from the friction between these bones.

How Does a Meniscus Tear Occur?

You can develop a meniscus tear for various reasons. In athletes and those who live active lifestyles, your menisci can be torn because of overuse or repetitive stress. Improper form and technique or not giving your body enough time to recover after strenuous activities can wear down the meniscus. Another reason could be traumatic injuries caused by falls or repeated knee twisting.

Aside from athletes, older adults are usually more likely to develop meniscus tears. Cartilage, like the meniscus, can degenerate as the body ages, making it prone to tearing. Pre-existing conditions such as osteoarthritis can also lead to complications such as torn meniscus.

If you have a torn meniscus, you may experience knee pain, stiffness, and the feeling of the knee giving out or being unable to straighten. Although many cases of meniscus tears recover without surgery, it’s highly recommended you see a specialist to help you recover. If your meniscus doesn’t heal properly, it can affect your stability and knee mobility. This could lead to further complications, such as a torn ligament, an ACL tear, and other injuries.

Treatment Options for Meniscus Tears

The best treatment can vary between patients. Factors such as the tear size, which menisci was damaged, and how it was caused can affect how you recover.

In most cases, patients recover with conservative treatment. Others may require physical therapy, while more severe cases must undergo surgery. Your doctor may require imaging and other tests to determine your knee's condition. If your meniscus injury was caused by trauma, collisions, or falls, other parts of your knee joint may also be damaged.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Most patients with torn menisci don’t need surgery and can recover through a combination of solutions. This can include resting at home, taking anti-inflammatory pain relievers, steroid injections, and other non-surgical treatments.

One of the most common treatments used for patients is the RICE method, which consists of these steps while recovering at home:

  • Rest: Minimize strenuous activities and heavy lifting. Avoid putting weight on the injured area, and allow yourself time to relax while your body heals.
  • Ice: To minimize pain and swelling, apply an ice pack on the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every three hours for up to 72 hours. This helps patients manage the discomfort of their torn meniscus.
  • Compression: Wrap the injured area snugly with a compression bandage. This helps manage the swelling to minimize pain. This step also provides added support to the knee area.
  • Elevation: As much as possible, you should rest lying down with your knee raised above your heart level. This can minimize swelling and pain by directing blood flow and lymphatic fluids away from your knee.

Physical Therapy

In combination with other treatments, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. If the injury and recovery period makes it difficult to move your knee, physical therapy can help you adjust to your condition. It can also strengthen your muscles and keep the area around it stable.

Through consistent physical therapy, many athletes manage to resume playing while everyday individuals can improve their mobility.

Surgical Intervention

If conservative treatments aren’t effective at recovery and minimizing pain, your doctor may recommend surgery. Depending on the severity of your tear, your doctor may perform any of these procedures:

  • Arthroscopic Repair: The surgeon makes a small incision and uses an arthroscopy to stitch up the tear. Your body will absorb the stitches gradually as your tear heals.
  • Partial or Total Meniscectomy: If a part of the torn meniscus is causing severe pain, your surgeon will remove part or the entire meniscus.
  • Meniscus Transplant: Younger patients may be qualified for transplant surgery to prevent the risk of developing knee arthritis. Donor tissue is repaired and sutured in place of the torn meniscus.

Recovery and Outlook

How long it takes to recover from your injury can vary depending on your treatment plan and how your body adjusts to the healing process. During your recovery, you should avoid putting weight on your knee and may require assistive walking tools like crutches for several weeks. By following your treatment plan, you can optimize your road to recovery.

Those with minor tears who recover from non-surgical treatment and physical therapy can heal within several weeks. On the other hand, patients undergoing surgery may need several months to recover fully. Most patients who undergo treatment manage to return to full activity.

Seek Innovative Treatment Solutions for Meniscus Injuries From Dr. Benjamin Domb

Recovery from a meniscus injury greatly depends on the severity, the type of treatment you receive, and your dedication to rehabilitation. Although it can range anywhere from a few weeks to several months, many people can make a successful recovery with the right treatment plan.

As a nationally recognized orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Benjamin Domb has helped many individuals through his innovative treatment plans. Minimize knee discomfort and other joint injuries and improve your overall quality of life with experienced care. Request an appointment today.

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